Israel and Hamas have suffered through a devastating war lasting 50 days. Daniel Pipes, President of the Middle East Forum discusses causes of the war, the parties' views, and their perspectives prior to the ceasefire on Tuesday evening. In a few sentences added yesterday, Pipes assesses the cease-fire.
The front page of "Şalom," published in Istanbul.
How do you interpret the timing of the Israel-Hamas fighting?
Many factors may have contributed to the Hamas decision to start the conflict, about which we can only speculate: among others, the "unity government" with Fatah, the murder of three Israeli teenagers, economic problems in Gaza, the hostility of the Egyptian government toward Hamas, ISIS victories in Iraq, the P5+1 talks with Iran.
The peace process brokered by the US was halted and shelved eventually. Do you agree with the widespread opinion that both in Palestine and Israel there are certain political groups who benefit from the status quo instead of establishing a permanent peace through mutual comprises?
I don't know of a single Jewish Israeli, of regardless of political views, who wants the warfare to go on. On the Arab/Muslim side one finds a division among those ready to accept Israel as a Jewish state and settle the conflict versus those who are determined to eliminate it as the Jewish state. I estimate the former make up 20 percent of the Arab/Muslim population.
Due to Fatah's failure to prevent Hamas' attacks against Israel, Abbas government's political representation of Palestine - particularly in Gaza - has been regarded as problematic by Israeli officials. Yet, announcement of the unity government wasn't welcomed, either. Why?
Israelis are deeply suspicious of Abbas, Fatah, and the Palestinian Authority, so they assume a union with Hamas means the PA going toward Hamas, not the reverse. I share those suspicions.
How do the demographic realities of Israel i.e. the growing number of ultra-religious right gaining political ground have an impact on its foreign policy?
The Haredim tend to focus on issues of immediate concern to themselves – money for schools and welfare, koshering issues, separation of the genders, Sabbath observance – and pay little attention to foreign policy. This may change one day, but until then, foreign policy is of interest to them mainly to promote their domestic agenda.
Haredim tend not to have an impact on Israeli foreign policy.
Can we talk about a political polarization in Israel between the liberal left and the radical right on the alternative routes to peace process, ie, the two state solution/one state solution/further settlements?
A recent poll shows that, on foreign policy and security issues, Jewish citizens of Israel count themselves as: 62 percent on the right, 22 percent in the center, and 12 percent on the left. This 5-to-1 advantage of the right over the left suggests that, at the moment anyway, there is no polarization. The country agrees on the goal (a demilitarized Gaza) and argues only about methods.
On the one hand, there is Israel's right to self-defence. On the other hand, the news coverage of rising death tolls in Gaza undermines Israel's moral justification of the operation. Is there a way to overcome this dilemma?
As long as Hamas continues to use Palestinian civilians to protect its military hardware (as distinct from Israel, which does the opposite), civilians in Gaza will continue to be casualties. Combine this with the fact that Hamas not only began the conflict but also refuses to end it (by again and again shooting rockets at Israel) and it points to Hamas as the aggressor.
How do you interpret the anti-Israel protests in the US and Europe? Do the protests mainly aim at condemning Israel's policies or are they also related to a growing anti-Semitism? Or you may say these two are intermingled.
Over time, the anti-Israel demonstrations in the West increasingly show antisemitic elements. Note, however, the relative-absence of such demonstrations in Muslim-majority countries, a fact of great significance.
An anti-Israel demonstration in New York City on July 25. Photo: Copyright Danielle Avel.
Do you think a proper ceasefire is possible in foreseeable future? If yes, is there any place for Turkey to act as a broker?
When Hamas has had enough (that is, when its leaders decide that the pain exceeds the benefits of continued warfare), a ceasefire will come to pass..
A number of short-lived ceasefire attempts were brokered by various countries such as the U.S., Egypt, Qatar and Turkey; Why did they fail? Was it the strategy to enforce a broader peace deal? Was it the brokers or what?
They failed for different reasons. The Qatari government apparently pressured Hamas not to accept the Egyptian offer. The Israelis saw the Turkish-Qatari offer as far too favorable to Hamas.
What was Israel's ultimate goal in Operation Protective Edge? Was the mission accomplished? In what ways?
Israel's goal is to end the threat coming out of Gaza. This has not yet been achieved, even temporarily. There is much frustration in Israel over this.
There is a tendency in the region - as the cases of Syria and Iraq show - jihadist groups tend to fill in the political vacuum where there is a failed state apparatus. If Israel crashes Hamas completely who will take over political power in Gaza? The Fatah? The Islamic Jihad? Is there a risk for Islamic State support to take roots?
Hamas itself is a jihadi group, so that takeover has already occurred in Gaza. If an even more radical, ISIS-like group (such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad) were to replace it, little would change. My preferred solution? That the Egyptian government again rules Gaza, as it did from 1949 until 1967. Although the Sisi government is hardly eager to take responsibility for Gaza, it also worries about the Muslim Brotherhood having a base there from which to attack Egypt, so it might just agree to take this step.
Would you like to say something about the latest ceasefire?
The ceasefire that went into effect today, Aug. 26, closely resembles the July 15 one which Israel accepted but Hamas rejected, suggesting that this agreement represents an Israeli advantage. But, given that this is the 12th ceasefire in 50 days, it may well not hold, especially as there have been reports that the Qatar government does not want Hamas to stop; it pays the bills, so it has influence in Gaza. In short, good news but one must be prepared for another disappointment.